It’s such a small world…

... and it helps to be surrounded by good people.

Over two hundred new olim arrive on flight of IFCJ aliya initiative (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Over two hundred new olim arrive on flight of IFCJ aliya initiative
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
IT HASN’T been long since our family touched down in Tel Aviv as new olim (immigrants) from South Africa, and with increasing regularity, I find myself saying, “It’s such a small world.” I keep on messaging my twin sister in Cape Town, saying, “You’ll never guess who we bumped into today!” In this short space of time, we’ve met up with our first friend from nursery school in Durban, a fabulous Johannesburg woman who stayed at our house during a netball tour when we were teenagers and a married couple we first met when we were all students at the University of Cape Town. Today, they all live in Ra’anana. They’re all within walking distance from our home.
Bumping into a familiar face while walking down the main road of the city – Ahuza St. – is always a great feeling when you’re new in town. It’s also incredible to see so many familiar new faces, too. That’s because the community here wastes no time welcoming new families to town. People arrive at your flat with homemade meals and gifts. WhatsApp messages are sent from mothers at the school, with their contact details in case there is anything you need. People are eager to help, advise and share experiences. There’s a strong, genuine group of men and women who go out of their way for you, and that certainly helps one feel at home in your first few weeks in a new country.
It’s very clear that the South African community here is known for its warmth and hospitality. They are always happy to have people for Shabbat and festival meals, and for dinners. Invitations have also come from American, British, Australian, Indian and Swedish olim, too. When you go to people for a meal, they often invite other families with children around the same age as yours, so your network continues to grow. Those guests often then invite you to a meal at their place. It’s like community speed dating, with each family helping introduce you to more people from the area. It’s a special, warm group of people that have made our integration here so much easier.
It feels like most people here were either new immigrants three months ago, 30 years ago or somewhere in between. They’re happy to tell you where they could have done things differently. They check in on you regularly, asking if they can help with anything. There’s a “directory” WhatsApp group here for city residents – questions include anything from the best plumber, specialist, fruit shop or where to get your child’s Purim costume. Responses are fired off almost immediately – it’s like a cyber support group and Yellow Pages rolled into one.
The welcoming committee isn’t restricted to olim though – an Israeli neighbor in our building arrived at our door while we were still unpacking boxes, with biscuits and drinks for us and the men who helped hoist our furniture into our flat. A lovely, eccentric-looking woman from the building next door arrived with delicious date and nut sweets. She seemed to shout at me a few weeks later though, when she realized my husband had been out of town and I hadn’t told her. “Next time he’s away,” she scolded, “you just tell me and come eat with us. Mevinah”? (“Understand”?)
One of my favorite messages I love to share in life-coaching sessions is to surround yourself with good people – it’s such an important life lesson for young and old! You can’t help but do that here. Whether it’s an invite for a meal from a childhood friend, a quick coffee meeting with another mom at the school or an apparent “reprimand” from the kindhearted lady next door, you simply can’t help but love your neighbor!